Gothic Revival

New Bedford, MA. William J. Rotch House, c.1844. Architect was Alexander Jackson Davis, the nation's foremost promoter of the Gothic Revival style during the time, along with his counterpart, Andrew Jackson Downing. This house is a manifestation of Davis' house plan published in Downing's Architecture for Country Houses in 1848, specifically representing Design #24.

PERIOD OF POPULARITY: Roughly 1840’s – 1860s. Western U.S. through 1890s. Churches nationwide through 1940.

IDENTIFYING FEATURES: Steeply pitched roof, cross-gabled, decorated vergeboards, pointed-arch windows, sometimes stained glass, like churches. Gothic window above entry, one-story porch with flattened, Gothic arches. The first appearance of picturesque (asymmetrical and unpredictable) floor plans, indicating the rise of the Romantic Era in America by the 1840s.

BACKGROUND AND INSPIRATION: Gothic Revival was never popular as Greek or Italianate styles, but it’s surprising how often this style reveals itself in churches, houses, and some public buildings. It was mostly popular between 1840-1860 for houses, usually in a wood-frame form referred to as Carpenter Gothic. It remained a popular style for churches nationally right up through the 1940s (WWII), due primarily to its association with European ecclesiastical architecture. It is most abundant in the northeastern U.S. The Gothic Revival can be traced back to England in 1749 to romanticize medieval styles there, and the romanticized simplicty of medieval times. The first American Gothic house was by Alexander Jackson Davis in Baltimore, MD. in 1832. Davis was the first American architect to promote the Gothic style, particularly in his book: “Rural Residences”. This 1837 publication is also considered the first house plan book published in U.S.  Andrew Jackson Downing, a friend and horticulturalist who helped promote America’s picturesque movement, helped popularize the style through his publications and public speaking. Gothic was mostly promoted as a rural style for early suburban, country houses; its unique designs typically didn’t fit standard city lots. The style was made popular especially through Downing’s 1842 book, Cottage Residences which enjoyed 13 successive editions up through 1887.

More Photos of Gothic Revival on Tom’s Flickr: Click Here

Woodstock, CT. Bowen House, c.1846. Referred to locally as the "Pink House". Great example of carpenter Gothic style, using board and batten siding and numerous vertical features.

Savannah, GA. Gothic-style church with a strong vertical orientation (hard to photograph!), lancet-arched openings, steeply pitched roof, and quatrefoil window in the steeple (looks like a clover, a common European Gothic element).

New Bedford, MA. Excellent example of Carpenter Gothic, making decorative use of vertical board & batten siding.

Savannah, GA. c.1853. The Green-Meldrim House. Designed and built by John S. Norris. Considered one of the finest examples of Gothic Revival style in the South. Good example of flat roof with castellated (scalloped) parapet, and oriel windows on second floor

New Bedford, MA. Gothic church tower, with battlements (castelated parapets) and lancet-arched window.

Deerfield Village, MA. Reverend John Farwell Moors House, c.1848. Features double lancet window in the gable and decorative vergeboards (trim) under the eaves.

3 Responses to “Gothic Revival”
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  1. […] HABS report for this house said it “may be the finest example of Gothic Revival cottage style and wood detail in Ohio.”  It was built about 1860 for Peter Neff, a […]

  2. […] Gothic Revival architecture, another of the three best known Romantic architecture styles, is much more ornate and dramatic in it’s overall aesthetic. Over the years, many churches have been designed in Gothic Revival style. Structures designed within Gothic Revival guidelines may exhibit a steeply pitched roof, cross gabled, decorated vergeboards, pointed-arch windows, stained glass, Gothic arches, and are picturesque, yet contain unpredictable floor plans. The following images are famous example of this historic style of architecture. […]

  3. […] Tudor Revival style was a reaction to the very ornate Victorian Gothic Revival that occurred during the second half of the 19th century (Cincinnati’s Music Hall is an […]

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